Ecuador: First Galapagos Webcams Feature Giant Tortoises

Galapagos Giant Tortoises are now giving pandas some competition in the online world of animal webcams! Galapagos Conservancy is thrilled to offer the first “window” into the daily lives of giant tortoises at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center at the Galapagos National Park.

The featured tortoises, ranging from large lumbering adults to small hatchlings, can be viewed by fans from anywhere in the world through streaming webcam footage and a clip archive on Galapagos Conservancy’s website:

Galapagos Conservancy led the installation of a series of four web cameras in tortoise pens at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center. The original idea for the “tortoise cams” came from one of Galapagos Conservancy’s loyal and enthusiastic donors, Dr. James Gallagher of New Jersey, who was captivated by other nature cams and approached Galapagos Conservancy with an offer to fund the launch of the project.

The Galapagos National Park and a team of international tortoise and technical experts, including Sean Burnett of Wildlife Intel and Dr. James Gibbs of SUNY-ESF, also lent their expertise to the project.

The launch of the tortoise cams coincides with the initial stages of an ambitious ten-year effort to restore giant tortoise populations across the Galapagos Islands.

Three cameras stream footage from pens of lively juvenile tortoises ranging from new hatchlings to two-year-olds. Once they are 4-5 years old – when their shells are strong enough to shield them from predators – they will be repatriated to their island of origin.

The fourth camera focuses on a group of large male tortoises who were returned to the Galapagos National Park in the 1960s by private owners who had had them as pets. They are expected to live out their lives at the Tortoise Center unless their native populations are threatened and they are needed for conservation management.

The streamed footage is selected based on automated detection of activity levels in the tortoise pens. Due to the inconsistent and unreliable internet connectivity to Galapagos, the footage is not able to stream “live,” but it is, instead, a curated compilation of the best footage from all 4 cameras from the previous day.

Gallagher joked, “Watching tortoises may be like watching grass grow, but it’s an-honest-to-god part of nature, and probably good for meditation.”

Web cameras have become an important tool to promote conservation awareness by engaging people around the world in species protection efforts. The “tortoise cams” mark the first successful streaming webcam footage related to conservation efforts in the Galapagos Islands.

“People around the world can now catch a glimpse of Galapagos, through the eyes of the islands’ most iconic species – the giant tortoises. People protect what they know and love, and these images will continue the important connection visitors and residents feel for these animals”, said Galapagos Conservancy President, Johannah Barry.

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